"Stay focused and don't look beyond the Lions game", we repeated as we contemplated the next home game against Buffalo and the possible Thanksgiving weekend trip to Oakland. Each week had to stand on it's own merits, beginning Sunday afternoon at 4:15 at the wonderful Ford Field facility. One of the biggest challenges or special team areas that we had to prepare for would be to get from the stadium to the airport Sunday night after the game to catch our flight back to LaGuardia.
All things lined up according to plan on Saturday afternoon and we were excited as we drove along the Grand Central Parkway to LaGuardia airport. The trip started with some rough weather as the wheels went up on time at 1:59pm and the Northwest flight rumbled down the runway. The plane was very crowded, however not with Jet fans as anticipated, but with dozens of happy Armenians who were participating in an arranged wedding. Did they also arrange for a Jet victory? The bride and groom had just met that morning in Queens and were to be married later that day in a huge church ceremony in Detroit. Luckily for us, the members of the wedding party sitting in our row were football fans! They even predicted a Jet win as they said the Lions just lacked the experience to compete with the now improving and confident Jets. In fact they kidded us that the Jets would coast to victory not unlike the many "toasts" they were preparing for at their upcoming party.
Our first stop, which we detailed in our weeklong preparation and would not stray from our game plan, thank you Coach Hackett, called for a straight and direct route to the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in downtown Detroit.
It was great to be in Detroit. It has become a great city, with lots of casinos to have fun while losing your money. Good restaurants to eat all kinds of food from Greektown to Motown Gyros, from Bar-B-Que ribs to Coney Island dogs. Being at the team hotel seeing all the Jets with their families and friends was special. Watching the final changing of the guard to Chaddie, talking with his wonderful parents and learning his nickname from his lovely and vivacious mom was a highlight of the evening. We also talked football with Kareem McKenzie and our new right guard Dave Szott (who will be activated on Tuesday and play in Oakland on Monday after Thanksgiving). Getting autographs from two of the best linebackers in the league, Mo Lewis and Sam Cowart may be a good investment for the future.
However, it really got going at 8 AM Sunday morning on the 40th floor of the Marriott Renaissance's Health Club. Herm was just staring out the window in a trance, like he was looking for someone to tell him to throw the red hankie that he should have thrown when Todd Lyght did not make that interception on Santana's poor missed reception. Terry Bradway walked in around 8:40 to wake him from his reverie, reminding him that, in spite of all odds, he is still the head coach of the New York Jets. Herm then disappeared to prepare for the day. His schedule was: pre-game meal - 11:30, last bus to stadium - 1:30pm, kick-off - 4:15pm.
Herm had worked on his cardiovascular and his abs at the Health Club and, after interminable gazes, we looked at each other and decided that we too needed to work on our physique. However, we realized that this was not the proper place. So we hopped in the car and headed out on the icy roads and cannonballed it 85 miles north to Tony's in Birch Run, Michigan for our pre-game meal. It was a long drive not unlike many that the Jets put together on Sunday afternoon. The Jets dominated time of postseason in this contest 38:44 to 21:16. For those that do not know Tony's, it is Michigan's finest eating establishment. With the parking lot full of deer (dead ones strapped on every pick-up truck – it's deer season), we enter with tumultuous jeers bedecked in our Jets attire, but we promptly settle in for our favorite BLT (1lb. of the finest bacon in the Midwest) and omelets. We had not been there in so long that we forgot if the omelets had 8 or 9 eggs in it. Rumor has it that it may actually be a dozen! Maybe Joey Harrington stopped by Tony's on his way to Ford Field and had a little too much to eat, as many of his throws seemed a bit tired and off the mark.
After asking for our carryout of the remaining ½ lb. of bacon from the BLT (we felt that we might need a cholerestrol fix later), we were ready for the game. One more interesting event occurred before we entered the game, we had the privilege to be invited to a pre-game Lions pep rally across the street from Ford Field. As we entered and the boos reached a rather high decibel, we were invited onto the stage by local DJ on 1130AM to do the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets cheer live on the radio. Although we were not quite as reverent as Fireman Ed, we did fine and would have made the Meadowlands faithful quite proud. As we left the platform, Dexter, still on-air live, predicted a 31-21 final score. Not Bad.
As we mentioned previously the defense was improved and it showed on Sunday. It was a close first half, even though Detroit was in trouble early when they lost Az Hakim. They have few wideouts and the loss of his speed seriously hurt Joey Harrington's options. It allowed our corners to play up and helped shutdown the running game. With little to work with, we did not allow Harrington much room. Lastly when the Lions forgot to cover Laveranues Coles on the 2-point conversion in the third quarter, it looked like all the air left their balloon.
Some noteworthy statistics of importance included Chaddie's great performance, 21-26-1-229. Curtis looked like the Curtis of old, 22-112 yards. Lamont is turning into a terrific change of pace back and compliments Curtis quite well. Chrebet has finally left Vinnie's camp and introduced himself to Pennington. With Coles now catching everything, we finally got all the weapons working at the same time. When you are 8 for 11 on third down efficiency, you have played well. Touchdown passes to Chrebet (2), Becht and Moss really make this a fun team to watch.
On defense Sam Cowart has returned to his old self and has learned to stay in his zone. Herm has finally left Josh Evans out there most of the time and left that out-of-shape Larry Webster on the bench. That alone helps stop the run. Shaun Ellis played a good game even though John Abraham did not. His dumb penalty cost us points. The penalty on James Darling really was a marginal call. If the Jets can stop getting dumb penalties called on themselves, they might be really building something defensively.
In sum, it was a great positive team effort and victory. It was certainly wonderful to see them dominate the undermanned Lions in the second half and go onto a relatively easy 31-14 victory. Every game is important now. If the weather and the sod permit, Sunday in the Meadowlands should be a terrific match. We have a brutal schedule down the stretch and historically, we all know how horrible we play in December. Unfortunately, we were not able to kidnap Tony and bring him and his BLTs to New Jersey.
The game plan worked well for both the Jets and us. The offense clicked on all cylinders. The defense played well except for a few breakdowns along the way. Special teams did not play as well, nor were they as spectacular and as exciting as they have been in prior games, but all pieces came together for a victory and kept the Jets in the middle of a very tight race at 5-5, only one game behind the 6-4 Dolphins. Speaking of special teams, we had as much movement and speed as Chad Morton and Santana Moss combined as we flew from downtown Detroit at 8:48pm and arrived, penalty free (ticket free) at Detroit Metro Airport at 9:16pm in time for our flight and even a Big-n-Tasty at McDonalds. The game plan worked well.
Now, we must rely on good leadership from Chad and fewer turnovers to get to the playoffs and stay focused on Buffalo. With the right situation, "6-5 and a tie for first" is definitely achievable by next weekend.
We haven't booked Oakland just yet!!